Monday, December 21, 2009

Obama is Hitler?

The other day I went to the post office in my neighborhood to mail some Christmas cards, and there was a guy and a girl with a small table in front heckling people as they passed by. As I walked into the post office, the girl said in a smart-ass tone: "Would you like to mail Obama to the North Pole?". I ignored her and went inside.

What really caught my attention about these two was the posters they had displayed and hanging from their little table. They were pictures of Obama with a Hitler-like mustache drawn in. This is the first time I have seen that. (To put it into perspective and see similar pictures, click this link to see some images that come up in a Google search result for "obama hitler")

After a little bit of research, it is clear that this is not a new idea. I found Obama/Hitler references dating back over 2 years ago (2007). It is also clear that this is not an obscure idea, as a simple search pulls up a plethora of information on the topic.

It seems that some people feel there are similarities in both Hitler and Obama's rise to power. I can see that, in a stretch I suppose. Although, the similarities are not great enough for me to accept it. Here's a few similarities people are claiming, and my response to each:

1. Hitler rose to power during a period of great economic depression for Germany, similar to how Obama rose to power during national economic hardship.

I don't think economic conditions in the United States can even remotely compare to those in Germany after WWI. Germany was war- torn and heavily sanctioned by the Treaty of Versailles in the time between WWI and WWII. The Treaty called for the trial of Germany's leadership as war criminals, restricted Germany's future military growth, changed Germany's borders, forced Germany to pay war reparations (thus crippling any prospect of future economic growth), and forced Germany to accept sole and full responsibility for the entire war! The United States before Obama, on the other hand, was in an economic recession (not depression) that, although serious, did not even end up comparing to the worst US economic depression in history (The Great Depression). Germany after WWI had it far worse.

2. Hitler rose to power under the Nazi Party on a platform of change and reform, and especially appealed to the young people of Germany - similar to how Obama's "campaign of change" did in the 2008 US Presidential election.

I will give supporters of this theory a slight nod here. There are similarities in how Hitler's early platform of change can be compared to Obama's. However, there are glaring (and I do mean GLARING) differences in how Obama rose to power over how Hitler rose to power.

First off; Hitler attempted on several occasions to overthrow the German government before he gained power. The most famous of which was the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, in which Hitler attempted a coup. It failed, 23 people died, and Hitler was convicted of treason and sent to prison. It wasn't a total loss though, as it gave Hitler and the Nazi party the exposure it needed to become known to the German public. I don't recall Obama attempting a coup, being convicted of treason, or being imprisoned as part of his rise to power.

Next; Hitler used a series of legal measures to gain power. He basically gained support in the government over time after the Beer Hall Putsch and used this support to change the German constitution. The Reichstag Fire Decree and the Enabling Act in 1933, combined with the Night of Long Knives in 1934, swept the Nazi's into power.

The Reichstag Fire of 1933 (the equivalent of there being a fire at the US Capitol today perhaps, hypothetically) caused fear and panic among the German population that Communist forces were at hand trying to overthrow the government. It is still unknown what caused this fire, but it was considered an act of arson and terrorism in Germany at the time. The government responded by passing the Reichstag Fire Decree which nullified civil liberties, gave the Nazi's legal authority to imprison anyone who stood against the Nazi party, and suppressed anti-government publications. This sounds a lot more like the Bush administration's response to 9/11 and the Patriot Act than it does about Obama's rise to power!

Soon after the fire, an Enabling Act was passed in Germany. This act changed the German constitution so that the government can act without the consent of the Reichstag. The equivalent of this in the US today, hypothetically, would be the house & senate voting to pass a law that would grant the Obama administration power to pass laws without needing to go through the house, senate, and veto process (thus making the house/senate powerless). Not only is it unconstitutional, it didn't happen! Obama must adhere to the same checks and balances as his predecessors, and Obama has not changed the Constitution.

With these new powers, the Nazi's staged the Night of Long Knives in 1934. Hitler executed many of his political adversaries (some sources say 85 people, others say 400 people), and passed a law retroactively legalizing the murders. To my knowledge, NO ONE was killed during Obama's rise to power for being a political adversary of Obama.

3. There was a wave of nationalism and admiration for Hitler during his rise to power, similar to what was experienced during Obama's rise to power.

It is true that the there was a wave of nationalism and admiration for Obama when he came to power. Obama represented a reminder and living proof that the American political system works. We had a peaceful transition of power. A black man from an unlikely upbringing became President, something many people thought would not happen in their lifetime given the history of slavery, segregation, and racism in the United States. There was a wave of nationalism and admiration for him indeed.

It's what happened and what is happening after the election that matters to me most in debunking this point.
Hitler changed the German government's authority structure after he came to power. He made himself a dictator. Obama is not a dictator. Obama is not changing the government in that way. There will be another election in 2012. The 22nd Amendment will ensure Obama has to step down one day, no matter how popular he is. What will not change is that he will have to give up power one day in a peaceful transition, just like the day he received power. That is the beauty, really, of the American political system.

That said, it is still a good time to take a lesson from history here. History reminds us to beware of fascism. A wave of nationalism, however, is not automatically fascism. Nationalism can be a very positive force. It could galvanize a country to change for the better. With knowledge of the past and political safeguards in place, nationalism can be just that...

I wish there was a way for me to have portrayed in an instant all of this information to those 2 people standing in front of the post office that day. It would have been useless though, as I think they were there to just get a rise out of people. As I walked out of the post office, the guy said to me "Are you grateful for Obama?". I said "Yes, I am. I like him.". As I walked off, not interested in getting into a debate, he said "You should be, he's Santa Claus. He's got presents for everyone." (perhaps referring to the stimulus/bailout package or health care?). As I said in my tweet that day, I respect their right to speak freely on the street. (Ironically, if Obama really were like Hitler they would have been executed for speaking out).

Their message did make me think for a moment though about whether or not I was missing something. After doing my own research though, it's clear to me that they are entirely ignorant to compare Obama to Hitler. I didn't even need to mention the obvious antisemitic atrocities Hitler was responsible for to come to this conclusion. Making this comparison is not only in bad taste, but it is offensive. Whatever anti-Obama message these people had, they are not winning any new support with that poor comparison and are just clouding their possibly legitimate argument. There are a lot of reasons not to like Obama, but comparing him to Hitler is just plain ridiculous.

Now for something a little less serious, Jon Stewart made me feel much better about this situation after watching this: :-)

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Monday, December 14, 2009

De-friending on Facebook

I have only had to do it 3 times, and I am about to do it again. I am de-friending someone on Facebook. It has become a social step one takes in breaking off ties with people. People getting into an argument is one thing, but if they decide to take the step to de-friend, then it is an indication that things really are over. Someone will say "..S/He even defriended me on facebook..." - O M G!

It has become the final slap in the face, the final insult, the final indication that the person de-friending you no longer wants contact with you. It is interesting that taking this small action in the online world can end up having such impact in the real world. Well, at least there is no more ambiguity. A word of caution though, make sure you mean it before you do it. People take it very seriously when they find out they have been de-friended!

To the person I am de-friending: when I try to reach out to you and you continue to ignore me, well then, sadly - what is the point of staying connected if we aren't going to stay connected? Good luck to ya...

Friday, December 11, 2009

iTunes Sucks

I have to say, I have always had problems with iTunes. First it was their DRM on all of their audio tracks. Then they lifted the DRM, but if you bought DRM music in the past and wanted the DRM lifted, you had to pay. Now, I hate them because of POOR QUALITY!

I ordered "Dub Like an Antelope: The Legends of Reggae Celebrate Phish" from iTunes. It's a fantastic reggae compilation album of reggae stars performing Phish tunes. One of the songs, however, is cut off at the last 2 seconds! (Makisupa Policeman) How could that happen? The guy who ripped it must have made an error. Seems like an easy problem to fix, just rip another copy of it and upload it to the store.

I complained, expecting that result. Instead, they gave me a credit for 1 song. I used the credit to download the exact same song that was damaged to prove to myself it wasn't a problem on my end. I was right, the 2nd version I downloaded was still messed up. I complained again and they gave me another song credit.

Totally, Totally, unacceptable. If I bought a CD from the store and it skipped, I would return it and probably get a full refund. I fought for a refund from iTunes, and got it (rightfully so). It might seem like a minor problem, but I expect the download to be in perfect order just like you would expect your brand new CD to work perfectly.

But SHAME ON YOU ITUNES! They continue to sell the same poor quality track to other people!!!! Instead of fixing the problem, they tried to make me go away with a song credit. Poor customer service. I tried to leave a comment in the iTunes store warning people of the problem, but iTunes censored me and did not post it.


How could they accept such poor quality in their store?

Question: Why don't online music vendors sell FLAC files? I want FLAC files for my music downloads. WE WANT QUALITY!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

RIP Lucy

Today my cat of nearly 18 years passed away. Her health had deteriorated in recent months, and we were doing the best we could to keep her comfortable and happy. She would have ups and downs, but generally seemed happy. The vet said as long as she eats, sleeps, and goes to her litter without a problem; then that's a pretty good quality of life for a cat.

The real amazing thing about Lucy though is that she lived as long as she did. She lived a legendary life for a cat. I adopted her circa 1992 as a kitten in a freak autumn snowstorm. I was working at Irving's Deli in Ithaca, NY and a couple of guys came in and said they found this kitten in the snow, were just passing through, and didn't know what to do with her. I put her in a box with some milk in the backroom. She ended up coming home with me to 209 South Albany Street in Ithaca that night, and instantly became a part of the crazy household in which I was a part of (4 college guys).

She survived parties, winter, crowds, traffic, reptiles, sketchy neighbors, a home robbery, being tie-dyed by a bunch of girls, a trip to the pound, and more. Come to think of it, my responsibility level was a little low back then and she may have even had to fend for herself a few times with food. Litter box? What's a litter box? I think she went outside. She used to be the queen cat of the neighborhood, catching all sorts of birds and rodents. She got into a few fights as well, and even got pregnant and had 3 kittens.

After college, she moved onto quieter pastures and moved in with my Mom and Dad. She was probably a bit lonely during those years but she was well cared for. She could go in and out, and she was fed regularly and kept after (thanks Mom and Dad). She had lots of fun beating up on our 2 Yorkshire Terriers (Tigger & Boozie). The dogs would bark at and chase Lucy at first, only to end up being chased by Lucy. Even Bunty (Boston Terrier) got in on the action before Lucy came to CA - always barking up a storm before she got fed.

When my parents decided to move, she came out to California with me. I took her on an airplane and she stayed under the seat in front of me. It was the flight from hell. Delays, turbulence, and when I got to my car in long term parking - it had a flat. Door to door she was in the cat carrier for well over 12 hours, but she survived.

Since then, she's had a good life here in SF. She was a bit unhealthy when I first got her back to CA - but quickly bounced back. She would run all over the house, and often wake us up early in the morning because she wanted some attention. She lived in 3 different homes with Julia and I, and became a pal to our niece Lauren.

Fortunately, she passed peacefully in her sleep while in her bed - which is where I found her. I was dreading having to possibly play God and take her to the vet to be put down. God answered my prayers by taking her peacefully. She was a good cat.

RIP Lucy
(aka Mrs Flea Bags)
(aka Psycho Kitty)
b. circa 1992
d. 12/2/2009

Update 5/31/10: Lucy was put to rest in the beloved "pet cemetery" behind the Smith family Tahoe house. A beautiful spot.